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    Russia backs Abbas as legitimate Palestinian leader - Lavrov-1

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    Russia supports Mahmoud Abbas as the legitimate Palestinian leader and is willing to discuss with him assistance to Palestinians, the Russian foreign minister said Monday.

    (Adds Abbas' quotes, details, background in paragraphs 4-10)

    MOSCOW, July 30 (RIA Novosti) - Russia supports Mahmoud Abbas as the legitimate Palestinian leader and is willing to discuss with him assistance to Palestinians, the Russian foreign minister said Monday.

    President Abbas is on a three-day visit to Moscow to discuss the situation in the Palestinian territories and in the Middle East as a whole following the Hamas takeover of Gaza last month.

    "We strongly support you as the legitimate leader of Palestine and praise your efforts aimed at restoring law, achieving unity among the Palestinian people and continuing the peace process," said Sergei Lavrov, opening a meeting with Abbas on Monday.

    Lavrov said that during the current visit the sides would be able to "map out concrete steps in Russia's assistance to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA)."

    The recent internal clashes between Palestinian political factions saw the Hamas radical movement take control of the Gaza Strip from the president-led Fatah party, and left the West Bank in the hands of Fatah, which is backed by the West and Israel.

    Russian experts believe during his visit, Abbas will try to secure political support from the Russian leaders. "The main aim of Abbas' visit is to secure support from Russia and Russian diplomats," said Sergei Oznobishchev, director of the Institute for Strategic Evaluation and Analysis.

    "He [Abbas] wants to discuss how and who we will support in the Middle East - he wants to clarify the situation," the expert suggested.

    Mahmoud Abbas, who will meet with President Vladimir Putin Tuesday, said at a Monday meeting with Lavrov that Palestine and Russia had a number of important issues on the discussion agenda.

    "An urgent situation in Palestine, the unity of the Palestinian people, the peaceful process in the Middle East and an international peace conference - all these issues are worth discussing," the PNA leader said.

    Abbas said he was interested in securing support from Moscow because Palestine had always enjoyed close ties with Russia, which wields substantial influence in global affairs.

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